Episode 86 – The Good Friends play with the conventions of convention games

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Episode086

We’re back and we’re mostly live! No, we haven’t fallen into the clutches of Herbert West. The bulk of this episode is a live recording of a seminar we gave at the Continuum 2016 convention in Leicester. Mike Mason joins us for a discussion of what makes convention games special. This is a subject close to all of our hearts. We not only love convention games, but they have honed our skills as GMs, players and writers. Conventions are not just opportunities to sit up drinking until 3 AM, talking bollocks about games.

continuum 2016 seminar

And the fact that we all look tired and hungover is completely coincidental.

Convention games may be a niche experience within the hobby, but there is plenty we can learn from them for general gaming. We discuss pacing, spotlight time, dealing with uncomfortable content and general etiquette. The consensus on the last point is that you should always raise your pinky when rolling dice.

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And never add the milk to your dice cup before rolling.

We also talk about some of our favourite gaming experiences and what made them so special. This was a nice excuse for some nostalgia. Possibly more usefully, we offer some suggestions for people interested in going to conventions but find them intimidating. The high point, however, is the excellent questions asked by audience members. It’s going to be hard to go back to just relying on our own ideas when recording.

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Happily Bob is always somewhere nearby, ready to whisper suggestions into our ears.

When we talk about the different requirements of pacing convention and home games, Paul mentions Cory Welch’s excellent recordings of his run-through of  Blackwater Creek on Skype of Cthulhu. We have been remiss about sharing them, and this was a good reminder.

Skype of Cthulhu

We heartily recommend Skype of Cthulhu in general to anyone who enjoys actual play recordings.

We also give a few updates about books we’ve worked on. In particular, we mention the new Section 46 Operations Manual for World War Cthulhu: Cold War, the print release of World War Cthulhu: London, and the new scenario collection, The Things we Leave Behind.

The Things We Leave Behind cover

Posted in Gaming Conventions, Roleplaying Games, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 1 Comment

Episode 85 – The Good Friends fight off combat fatigue

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Episode085

We’re back and we’re resorting to violence again. Combat is a large part of roleplaying games, arguably disproportionately so.  Even in Call of Cthulhu, a game where academics, librarians and antiquarians carefully search crumbling ruins and pore over forbidden tomes in search of knowledge that will either save or doom humanity, sooner or later most groups load up on shotguns and dynamite, reciting their favourite lines from eighties action movies and bringing fiery destruction to all they survey.

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“Can you guys finish just one scenario without summoning Cthugha?”

Unlike our look at the combat mechanics of 7th edition all the way back in episode 23, this is more of a general discussion about the role violence plays in games. Why is combat such a huge part of RPGs, and Call of Cthulhu in particular? Why do many games have devoted combat sections while modelling genres where violence is a rare thing? Why do most characters in RPGs fight to the death as a matter of course when fictional characters or real people rarely do so? Why do fights in games tend to be long, repetitive and mechanical, and how can we avoid this? We dig into these questions, as well as offering ideas for making combat scenes more interesting.

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We recommend using violence as a resolution mechanic. Not just in combat. Or games.

We also take a little time to give our impressions of a short film called Shadow of the Unnamable. Our friend in Germany and terror of six-inch nails everywhere, Frank Delventhal, sent us a copy of the DVD last month, and we finally found time to watch it as a group. It’s an engaging and faithful adaptation of The Unnamable, another of Lovecraft’s frequent warnings about the danger of befriending Randolph Carter. The special effects in the film are a cut above most independent Lovecraftian shorts, and it’s definitely worth investigating if you have a taste for the uncanny.

After our singing extravaganza last episode, you will be relieved to hear that there are no songs this time. In case you’re one of the lucky few not to have encountered them, these songs are our idiosyncratic and discordant way of thanking Patreon backers who have been generous enough to sponsor us at the $5 level. We had been threatening Chris Clew with a song, as he raised his pledge level last month, but we have relented. We spoke to Chris over the weekend, when we all attended the wonderful Continuum convention in Leicester, and his heartfelt thanks at not being warbled at have swayed us. A non-singing thank you to you anyway, Chris!

Posted in Call of Cthulhu, Roleplaying Games, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 3 Comments

Episode 84 – The Good Friends unearth some Mythos artefacts

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Episode084

We’re back and we’re ransacking lost temples, mouldering tombs and forbidden ruins to bring you things man was not meant to know. Our searches have uncovered a number choice Mythos artefacts to share with you. Specifically, that number is three. As we discovered in issue one of The Blasphemous Tome, our previous Top Three countdowns have really been Top Nines. The premise has proved just as much of a lie as the Lovecraftian Word of the Week being weekly.

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“And here’s the special filter we use to replace the word fortnight with week in every introduction…”

Happily, the scarcity of Mythos artefacts has forced us to be honest this episode. There really are only three entries. We could have included tomes or the products of human mad science, but we decided to save those for future episodes. The items we have selected are all guaranteed 100% alien, eldritch and unwholesome. The ISO number for this certification proved to be a glyph that turned our eyes inside out and made everything taste of rubber.

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It’s done wonders for our pineal glands too.

As cutting our choices threefold leaves us with more time, we spend of it some talking about what makes an artefact interesting, and how we might use them in our games. We had planned to create an artefact between us, but we ran out of time. We should have chosen a piece of Yithian technology that creates more of it.

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This item, for example, can make the passing of 90 minutes feel like bloody days.

We have another installment of our not-so-new segment, Ask Jackson. I keep referring to it as new, and Paul has taken to correcting me. He is a year younger than me, and thus much better equipped to deal with change. This question comes from the Uncaring Cosmos, whose excellent blog about Lovecraftian horror gaming I promised to link to. And now I have.

Uncaring Cosmos

Oh, and there is singing in this episode. Oh dear God, the singing. Three more brave and generous souls have backed us on Patreon at the $5 level, so we are singing their praises. Well, we are making out voices do things that sound unlike normal human speech. That is as close as we can get.

Posted in Call of Cthulhu, Roleplaying Games, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 9 Comments

Actual play recording with the How We Roll crew

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Earlier this month, Paul and I joined Joe and Eoghan from the How We Roll podcast for a Call of Cthulhu one-shot. Unfortunately, Matt was unable to join us. Mike Mason GMed for the session, using Servants of the Lake, a scenario from the forthcoming Chaosium collection, Doors to Darkness.

We recorded the game, and Joe chopped it up into three episodes, along with a short postscript where we chatted about Call of Cthulhu. If you’ve listened to How We Roll before, you’ll know that Joe is a master of applying sound effects and background music, and this episode is no exception.

All the episodes are now available on Soundcloud. Alternatively, here is the episode downloads page on the How We Roll website, where you can select Servants of the Lake from the drop-down menu.

Posted in Call of Cthulhu, Other Podcasts, Roleplaying Games, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 1 Comment

Episode 83: The Good Friends ponder the appeal of RPGs

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Episode083

We’re back, and we’re looking at the dice clutched in our hands, asking “why?” Seriously, sitting around a table with people you like while everyone pretends to be someone else sounds pretty weird. And yet, for many, roleplaying games are a passion that borders on obsession. The three of us have spent, appropriately for this episode, a total of 83 years playing RPGs. This a realisation that has led to much reflection and a few existential crises since we added it all up. So, why do we do it, what do we get out of it and how can we explain RPGs to people who think that roleplaying involves Batman costumes, naughty nurses and flirty French maids?

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OK, there may be some cause for confusion.

Our discussion takes us through a quick overview of the different forms roleplaying takes, how we got into RPGs, why we’ve continued roleplaying long into what we laughably call adult life, and how we might explain RPGs to normal people. We are not academics, so our analysis of the topic is purely subjective and woefully unscientific. We did toy with the idea of dissecting a gamer to gain deeper understanding, but we failed to find a suitable and consenting test subject. Maybe we should have pitched it as the ultimate unboxing video.

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Not pictured: l, dice pouch.

The other irregular segment in this episode is our brief overview of the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition launch party. We’ve posted about the event already, but now you can hear us ramble on about it too. It’s just like being on a long car journey with us nattering away, only with less sleep deprivation and swerving into oncoming traffic.

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One quick amendment to these notes. Paul mentioned his Dockside Dogs scenario for Call of Cthulhu, which he has been selling through DriveThru RPG to raise money for cancer research. I completely forgot to post a link to it first time round.

Posted in Roleplaying Games, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 3 Comments

Call of Cthulhu 7th edition launch party

On Sunday the 10th of July, at the kind of hour usually only seen by insomniacs, those hapless worms destined to be eaten by early birds, and the country’s few remaining milkmen, the Good Friends hit the road to Gateshead. Travelling Man in Newcastle had organised a launch party for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition, inviting the three of us and Mike Mason as guests. We were accompanied by Matt’s wife, Tiffany, who took many fine photographs of the event. You can view the full album on her Facebook page.

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From left to right: Paul Fricker, Lynne Hardy, Matt Sanderson, Scott Dorward and Mike Mason. Our various levels of commitment to dressing up make this look like a cross between a LARP and a Spinal Tap reunion.

The event took place at the Prohibition Cabaret Bar in Gateshead, just across the river from Newcastle (helpful hint: don’t mix up Newcastle and Gatehead the way I did, as you will be roundly and deservedly mocked). This was the perfect venue for a Call of Cthulhu event, with its 1920s fixtures, comfortable armchairs and ready supply of gin.

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Sadly no one felt up to providing musical accompaniment to our games on the piano.

The event itself was smoothly and energetically organised by Rebecca Swainston of Travelling Man and Lynne Hardy, former line developer for Achtung! Cthulhu and author of the forthcoming Chaosium Call of Cthulhu campaign, Children of Fear. Our thanks to both of them!

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The event was broken into three main parts. We opened with a question and answer session, where the audience asked us about the development of 7th edition, what didn’t make it into the book and what our favourite Call of Cthulhu scenarios are. Probably the most interesting question came from Rebecca, who had recently started reading Lovecraft and had been put off by the racism in Herbert West: Re-Animator. She wanted to know how we managed to avoid these aspects of Lovecraft’s writing seeping into work based on it, which led to some lively discussion and may well prove an interesting topic for a future podcast.

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“You don’t have time to draw a moustache on every picture…”

Next came the book signing. It was wonderful to see how many people turned up with books for us to deface, and we did so with cheer and vigour. Personally, I’d never been on this side of a book signing before, and the experience was somewhat surreal in the best possible way.

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Tonight, the part of Paul Fricker will be played by Tom Waits.

Finally, all of us, including Lynne, ran some games. Matt offered a new scenario called Lord, Help My Poor Soul, which one playtester described as “More Poe than you can shake a stick at”. Paul ran the Moby Dick-inspired Full Fathom Five, which is one of the vignettes from A Poison Tree, converted here to use Call of Cthulhu. I tested a new and repellent scenario called The Way of All Flesh, which either ended in death and madness or as a touching family reunion, depending on your perspective. We each had fantastic players in our games who kept things lively and unpredictable. Many thanks to you all!

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Judging by my laughter, it was death and madness.

We headed home that evening, arriving back in Milton Keynes a little after 2 AM. I fear the last few hours of the journey were an out-of-body experience for Matt. Conversation with him at that stage was like interrogating someone drugged with sodium pentothal. Happily he managed to get us down the M1 without taking any diversions into the Dreamlands.

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“And then if you squeeze the temples hard enough, the eyes pop out like wet ping pong balls.”

Thank you again to Rebecca and Lynne for organising this, to Matt for getting us there and back at the cost of his sleep and sanity, to Tiffany for documenting the affair and especially to everyone who came along and made it such a marvellous day!

Posted in Call of Cthulhu, Gaming Conventions, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 3 Comments

Episode 82: The Good Friends pose with Pickman’s Model

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Episode082

We’re back, and we’re tearing into the ripe meat of another Lovecraft story. This time we discuss the charnel pleasures and toothsome delights of Pickman’s Model. While there is nothing of the cosmic about this tale, it is one of Lovecraft’s best-known works, and perhaps the purest horror story he ever penned. It introduces us to Lovecraft’s version of ghouls, although they weren’t fully integrated into his wider Mythos until The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.

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Put down your lunch and wave to the nice listeners.

The above picture is probably the iconic rendition of Pickman’s Model, by beloved pulp artist Hannes Bok. In the episode, Paul mentions that this image also reminds him of one of the covers of the Grafton editions of Lovecraft’s work. While its subject may lack the distinctive snout and hooves of Lovecraftian ghouls, and is rather more corpulent, it still sort of fits the (grave) mould.

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Not every model is a size zero.

As usual in our story episodes, we talk about the different elements we can steal for our games, as well as mentioning various film and television adaptations. Specifically, we discuss the Pickman’s Model episode of Night Gallery, as well as Professor Peabody’s Last Lecture and their adaptation of Cool Air; Volume 4 of Lurker Films’ H P Lovecraft Collection, which is devoted to Pickman’s Model and includes the feature film Chilean Gothic; and Pickman’s Muse, an independent feature which, unusually, sets Richard Upton Pickman at the heart of the events of The Haunter of the DarkI reviewed Pickman’s Muse as part of the 2013 October Horror Movie Challenge.

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Don’t let the lack of ghouls put you off. There are many fine films that fail to depict the consumption of human flesh.

This episode also sees more singing. It obviously didn’t see the singing in time, otherwise it would have run off in the other direction. If you haven’t encountered our outre musical endeavours before, I had best explain that this is the way we give thanks to our bravest and most generous Patreon backers, whose praises we literally sing.  This time, inspired by our topic, we have tried to integrate some glibbering and meeping into one of our numbers. It was an interesting experiment, but it has left us with some unwholesome appetites.

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Our backing choir will now join us in a bone-shaking rendition of I Ain’t Got No Body…

Speaking of music, we make mention of a far more melodious and less sanity-blasting number, in the form of a fun, catchy RPG-related song titled Party Killer, from our friends Kat and Sarah. Well, here it is!

We have a fresh and meaty segment of our new Q&A feature, Ask Jackson. As the earthly vessels of the ascended spirit of Jackson Elias, we are empowered to ask his advice about all matters eldritch on behalf of our listeners. If you have some hideous conundrum weighing on your mind, simply use the Contact Us page to let us know what it is, and Jackson will provide you with his shining wisdom before you know it. This episode sees the first question to involve a visual component, in the form of the brochure depicted below. Pay close attention, for your very life could depend on it.

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If you think those are fronds in his maw, you are just the kind of naive fool that ends up devoured.

This episode also includes an unexpected and delightful piece of interaction with one of our listeners. Frank Delventhal sent us a couple of mysterious packages from Germany, packed with eldritch goodies. You can listen as we unwrap them on air and try to work out just how he managed to bend a bunch of six-inch nails into such unnatural configurations (having seen photographs of Frank’s workout regimen, I still maintain that he used his bare hands). You can see some photographs of the lovely presents below!

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Blimey, this was a busy episode! I’ve written scenarios shorter than these show notes. Congratulations if you made it all the way through them!

Posted in Call of Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft, Horror Stories, Roleplaying Games, Television, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 10 Comments

Episode 81 – The Good Friends tremble in the Dead of Night

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Episode081

We’re back, and after a few episodes about Call of Cthulhu, we’re talking about Dead of Night, a horror RPG that is largely tentacle-free. That’s not to say that you that you can’t do Lovecraftian horror with Dead of Night, which is a set of mechanics for emulating horror films, but the tentacles are purely optional. If you can think of a monster, murderer or supernatural menace that would render the protagonists of a horror film into red, meaty paste, Dead of Night can bring it to life.

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This little chap’s so hungry he’s chewed up the logo.

Described as “the roleplaying game of campfire tales, slasher movies and b-movie horror”, Dead of Night is a light, simple system designed for one-shots, and can easily be explained to new players on the fly. You can create a player character in a couple of minutes, which is a good thing, given that they’re known in the game text as “victims”. We’ve found that it works well for anything from manic comedy-horror to dark, serious games that drip with atmosphere and blood.

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And possibly some other, less identifiable fluids.

Dead of Night is the brainchild of good friend of the Good Friends Andrew Kenrick, and came out of the burst of British RPG self-publishing known as the Collective Endeavour, that gave us such games as Hot War3:16 Carnage Amongst the StarsContendersDuty & Honour and Umläut: Game of Metal. I was recently asked in an interview whether I thought self-publishing was a worthwhile pursuit for RPG designers, and these games were the reason I answered with an enthusiastic yes.

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Enthusiasm pictured for reference.

All the pictures in these notes come from the second edition of Dead of Night, which was laid-out and illustrated by the incredibly talented Paul Bourne. This edition features some of Paul’s best work, especially in the form of the many fake horror film posters he spread throughout the book like the viscera of so many victims. We’ve raved about Paul’s work before, back when we discussed Hot War, and this is the perfect opportunity to do so again. Paul now works full-time for Cubicle 7, and you will notice his distinctive handiwork in the layout of many of their books.

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I’m sure they’ll let him out to work on more film posters one day.

Posted in Roleplaying Games, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 6 Comments

Call of Cthulhu Explained – Part 2: Creating Investigator, Optional Extras (video)

In part 1 Paul looked at how to create Investigators for Call of Cthulhu. This episode looks at the optional rules for character creation. 

Posted in Call of Cthulhu, Video | 3 Comments

Episode 80: The Good Friends get pulped by Pulp Cthulhu

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Episode080

We’re back, and we’re continuing our run of episodes inspired by the print release of Call of Cthulhu 7th edition by taking a look at Pulp Cthulhu. While it’s only available as a backer-only PDF at the moment, Pulp Cthulhu should be available for purchase within days and in shops later this year. This is the culmination of a long, winding journey that started all the way back in 2001!

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I’m not saying that 2001 was a long time ago, but this is what we looked then.

Our discussion starts off with an overview of what we mean by pulp, how this compares to the more purist mode of play most people associate with Call of Cthulhu and a bit of debate about whether they are really totally different things. I honestly thought that we’d argue more about this last point, but we all seem to agree. We’ll have to find something else to get us bickering.

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Yup, that should do it.

The bulk of the episode is taken up by a brief overview of what you can expect to find in Pulp Cthulhu, an explanation of what sets it apart from standard Call of Cthulhu, and discussion of our experiences of playing and running the game. Although the PDF is only just on the cusp of release, we each spent much of last year running Pulp Cthulhu, to playtest both the rules and The Two-Headed Serpent, the campaign we have co-written for Pulp Cthulhu, which will be released by Chaosium in the not-too-distant future.

Pulp Cthulhu

And, once again, there is singing. As I mentioned in the show notes for our two recent episodes about the development of Call of Cthulhu 7th edition, the fact that these episodes were recorded last year meant we had to delay our usual thanks to our Patreon backers until we returned to the present day. Well, here we are! There are three sets of sung thanks to tease your ears and horrify your sensibilities. We shall try not to let them build up again.

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We’ve seen what can happen.

This episode also sees the return of our new Ask Jackson segment. If you have a question that you would like us to pose to the spirit of Jackson Elias, please let us know via Google+, Facebook, Twitter or email.

Posted in Call of Cthulhu, Roleplaying Games, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 2 Comments

Call of Cthulhu Explained – Part 1: Creating an Investigator (video)

Following up on the short series of five videos for the Call of Cthulhu Quick-Start Rules, Paul has made what will hopefully be the first of many videos exploring the new 7th Edition rules.

If you are new to Call of Cthulhu, the Quick-Start Rules are a great place to start – you can get a copy here. The accompanying videos are each short and fast-paced, and if you have trouble catching what’s said, then click on the Youtube closed captions button (cc). Thanks should also be given to Ishii Tomoki for translating the subtitles into Japanese – you can find the Japanese versions here.

Posted in Call of Cthulhu | 1 Comment

Episode 79 – The Good Friends reveal more of the secret history of Call of Cthulhu 7th edition

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Episode079

We’re back with the conclusion of our discussion about how Call of Cthulhu 7th edition came about. Once again, we’re joined by Mike Mason, line editor of Call of Cthulhu, who co-authored  7th edition along with our very own Paul Fricker. I’m saying “once again” like we met up again to continue the discussion, but this is really the continuation of the long chat that started in episode 78. We cut it in half because no one in their right mind wants to listen to us natter on for two and a half hours non-stop.

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We also wondered if each half would grow into a complete episode, like earthworms are meant to. Or maybe fill our gardens with rich humus. Something like that, anyway.

And again, we should warn you that we recorded these episodes in May of 2015, when our recording equipment was more primitive. At this time, we believed that the printing of 7th edition was imminent, so please try not to judge too harshly if you hear us getting that wrong. Our decision to hold off releasing these episodes until the books were with backers has meant that they have been languishing on Paul’s computer for a year, and we’re happy to finally get the chance to release them. We’re even happier that the books are now in backers’ hands, and will soon be available for retail.

Pulp Cthulhu

And now this beast has crawled up from the depths too! We plan to discuss it in the very near future.

We have a number of new Patreon backers to thank, but with these being old recordings, we shan’t be able to do so until next episode. On the bright side, we will be singing at least twice next time. There may even be percussion, if Paul can work out how to make use of our ill-advised experiments with dice-stuffed improvised maracas.

Posted in Call of Cthulhu, Roleplaying Games, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 2 Comments

Episode 78 – The Good Friends reveal the secret history of Call of Cthulhu 7th edition

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Episode078

We’re back… In fact, we’re all the way back to May of 2015. Around a year ago, when we believed the print release of Call of Cthulhu 7th edition was imminent, we spent a day chatting with Mike Mason about how 7th edition had come about, on the assumption we would release the discussion within a month or two. The events that followed now make this seem a little ill-informed.

Mike and Paul at Gencon

Paul and Mike demonstrate how to resolve grapples without using the resistance table

Obviously a lot has changed in the last year, including the shipping dates of the books, the management of Chaosium and all our recording equipment. Our decision to hold off the release of this discussion until the books were in backers’ hands means that some of the references are dated.  Still, the discussion is relevant, and it only seemed right to wait.

Call of Cthulhu

Hey, if Cthulhu can wait for strange aeons, we can manage a year or so.

But the stars are right at last. Backers all over the world have reported strange things turning up on their doorsteps, and so far no one has been shot in the head. In fact, it seemed like everyone was getting their books except for Paul, Matt and Me. We’ve spent the past couple of months following ships via satellite, reading Kickstarter updates and using the DPD website to watch a nice man from named Peter drive around Buckinghamshire. Happily, they turned up yesterday, as if summoned by the imminent release of this episode.

7th ed books

Now there’s the small matter of finding shelf space for them all.

Being old recordings, these are missing some features like the new Ask Jackson segment and shout-outs to our Patreon backers. These will resume as of episode 80, when we make our way back to 2016. Until then, thank you to everyone who has backed us or raised their pledge level recently! We have some singing to do.

 

Posted in Call of Cthulhu, Kickstarter, Roleplaying Games, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | Leave a comment

Episode 77 – The Good Friends dice with death

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Episode077

We’re back, and we’re staring death straight in its empty, pitiless eyes. This episode is our discussion of death in games. Well, specifically it’s a look at the different ways we can handle the deaths of player characters, the approaches to death taken by various RPGs, character deaths we’ve found particularly memorable and suggestions for ways you can make death meaningful and interesting. So, a real bundle of laughs.

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At least the after-show party was rollicking.

All this morbid introspection was prompted by listener Tim Vert, who sent us a message via Patreon to ask us our thoughts on death in RPGs. We are always open to suggestions from listeners, as long as they are entertaining, anatomically feasible and legal in the United Kingdom (or at least carry little risk of us getting caught).

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At least the long arm of the law tends to have a bit more meat on it.

In fact, this episode also sees us trying out a new segment inspired by another listener. Back in March, Tom McGrenery used Google+ to ask for our advice on an eldritch problem. The discussion thread this spawned amused us so much that we thought we’d try a variant of it on the podcast. You’ll find our first attempt, titled Ask Jackson, at the end of this episode. Obviously we have no wisdom of our own to share, but we are able to channel the spirit of Jackson Elias, and he is only too willing to offer advice from beyond the grave (between you and me, it can get a bit irritating, especially when he starts criticising my driving). If you have any questions you’d like us to pass on, please ask them via Google+, Facebook, Twitter or email.

L0014318 The dance of death: the antiquary's last will & testament. C Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org The dance of death: the antiquary's last will & testament. Coloured aquatint by T. Rowlandson, 1816. 1816 By: Thomas RowlandsonPublished: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Or simply manifest in our homes at night. We’re used to it.

If all goes according to plan, our next few episodes will be somewhat unusual. We shall drop shuddering and abhorrent hints on social media soon.

Posted in Roleplaying Games, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 2 Comments

Google Play

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Google have recently extended their Google Play service to include podcasts. While we would like to offer The Good Friends of Jackson Elias through their service, we have not yet been able to do so.

Google Play

The podcast service is only currently available to subscribers in the USA and Canada. For reasons that defy comprehension, this also means that publishers outside these countries cannot submit their podcasts to Google. Until this frustratingly parochial policy changes, listeners in North America will only be able to use the service to listen to North American podcasts.

There is no projected date for when the service may accept podcasts from the UK yet. We will list The Good Friends of Jackson Elias there as soon as we can. Until then, you can still subscribe via iTunes, Subscribe on Android or any podcast app that can read our RSS feed directly.

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Kickstarter Update: April 2016

A little later than planned, but here we are!

It’s a new month, and there’s some new Kickstarter projects to back. The first of these, I’ve been looking forward to for a while. The second was worth it to see the look on Scott’s face when I told him about it.

Unknown Armies: Third Edition

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As I’ve mentioned before, Unknown Armies is one of my all-time favourite RPGs. I was excited to hear that it was coming to Kickstarter and signed up to the Atlas Games mailing list to keep me informed of when it went live.

To begin with, one of the nice perks for this project is that when you become a backer, you can go to Update #1 and get access to the draft files for the three books that form the core set of the game, immediately. I’m yet to do this, because I don’t find it particularly easy reading text off a screen – this is why I much prefer my dead tree versions – but I’ve picked some bits.

It appears that there’s been quite an overhaul of the rules and updated setting. The mechanics have changed a fair bit, and while there’s a handful of familiar Avatars alongside a new bunch, all the Adept schools are new. That was quite a surprise.

The physical products on offer through the Kickstarter are very pretty indeed. The core game is now divided between three books. Initially, I thought this was going to mirror the “Street, Global and Cosmic” structure from Second Edition, but that’s not the case. Book One: Play is the player’s book containing the rules (including Avatar and Adept schools, etc.), Book Two: Run is the GM’s book (giving advice on how to run the game), and Book Three: Reveal is the encyclopedia of occult knowledge (i.e. lots of setting material entries, including references to material that was in the previous editions). Having read through a few entries in Reveal, I’m very excited!

In addition to the physical books, there’s a Deluxe set that has a magnetic slip-case that unfolds to become the GM Screen. I’m having trouble trying to visualize exactly how that’s going to work but it sounds good. There’s also a set of UA dice from Q-Workshop, that come in sets of three, with a “333” logo on one side – nice touch.

As part of the stretch goals for the project, as it funded quickly, there are two digital-only supplements being released as well – Book Four: Expose (described so far only as new material and content), and Book Five: Mine (rituals, organizations, archetypes, and magickal phenomena).

The only things I can say I’m disappointed about are that there are no physical rewards on offer through the Kickstarter that will not be available later, which could put off people from backing (especially as the postage costs are pretty horrendous from the USA – another thing that stings), and that Books Four and Five are only digital. As mentioned above, I like my dead tree. Even if they do print-on-demand, I’d rather have that than stare at a computer screen.

There’s a few high-level tiers, but they’ve pretty much all sold out within hours of going live, that get a few extra bonuses (e.g. photo in the book, handmade postcards, being able to determine what goes in parts of Book Five, etc.). These include, at the highest levels, a set that includes one of a set of two ouija-board-esque pieces of art by Greg Stolze himself. I resisted those, but am happy to be a Patron of Book Five.

As of the time of writing, the project has 12 days left to run and will close on Friday, April 29th.


And now for Scott’s favourite… 🙂

The C is for Cthulhu Coloring Book

C3First there was the Alphabet book, then the Plush toy, and now the coloring book.

This features some line-art versions of the illustrations in the Alphabet book that your little cultists can bring to life with colours out of space.

Personally, I think it’s pretty cute. Yep, not a phrase a purist (or Scott) would use, but I like what they’ve done so far. I backed the previous two projects (and even won a caption contest on the Plush project to get my rewards doubled!) so definitely wanted in on this one. As if I needed any extra incentive…

C4If they hit $20,000 (which is a little under $4,000 away at the time of writing) they will unlock the Black Cthulhu Plush, to make a fourth colour choice to the entire range.

Well, I’m a completest. I want my black plush!

I think these plushes are probably the most kid-friendly of the ones released so far. A perfect toy for the cultists of tomorrow to snuggle up to while they make their way to the Dreamlands.

As of the time of writing, the project has 13 days left to run and will close on Saturday, April 30th.

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Episode 76 – The Good Friends look into the many faces of Cthulhu

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We’re back and we’re looking at all the different ways in which people use Call of Cthulhu at the gaming table. Conveniently enough, we have Call of Cthulhu line developer Mike Mason on hand to help us with this. Between the four of us, we probably have over 100 years of Call of Cthulhu experience, so we’ve seen a fair few styles of play first-hand.

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Not to mention the rise and fall of civilisations, the fading of ancient days, and the passing into folly of all human endeavour.

For a game about such a niche sub-genre as Lovecraftian horror, Call of Cthulhu has proved uncannily flexible, much like a shoggoth in a gimp suit. We’ve seen it used for mysteries, survival horror, dark comedies, emotional dramas and many games that bear no relation at all to Lovecraft. In our discussion, we spend a bit of time trying to work out whether this anything inherent to the game, or simply because it was the first major horror RPG.

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Admittedly, I’m now more interested in working out how to get a shoggoth into a gimp suit.

The latter part of the discussion includes a potted history of the Kult of Keepers, who pretty much defined Call of Cthulhu convention gaming in the UK for the early part of this century. It’s fair to say that without the Kult of Keepers, there would be no Call of Cthulhu 7th edition, Cthulhu Britannica or even the Good Friends of Jackson Elias. With that in mind, we hope you’ll excuse our little diversion.

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Don’t they all look young? Well, maybe not if this is the first time you’ve seen them, but I certainly did a couple of double-takes.

We’re a little light on shout-outs this episode, not for a lack of backers, but simply because Paul’s Internet connection has failed him. This stopped us doing our usual trick of recording a bunch of segments the week before release and editing them in at the last minute. We promise to thank everyone outstanding in the next episode! In the meantime, we hope the copy of the first issue of The Blasphemous Tome that should be appearing on backers’ doorsteps around now will go some way toward making up for this.

Posted in Call of Cthulhu, Roleplaying Games, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 1 Comment

The Blasphemous Tome issue 1 is in the post

Matt, Paul and I spent last Thursday evening stuffing and addressing envelopes, and Paul popped most of the 100-odd copies of The Blasphemous Tome in the post on Friday. We’ve heard that they have started turning up in people’s homes, or at least that’s what we take the screams to mean. We have no idea how long the international deliveries will take, or whether secret orders within post offices across the world have warded against its eldritch secrets passing through their hands, but all being well, it should be less than a week. If you are a backer, and haven’t received your copy by then, please check that your address details are up to date in Patreon. Paul has tried contacting everyone with incomplete addresses, but he is still waiting for a few of you to reply.

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This odd little volume has been a delight to produce. It’s largely light-hearted fun, but we’ve put a few more substantial articles in there, including discussions of games we’ve enjoyed recently, some film reviews and a scenario of small-town Lovecraftian horror that ended up being about twice as long as we’d planned. In fact, the whole publication is about 50% longer than we’d anticipated. Apparently we’re as bad at being succinct on the page as we are on the podcast.

Issue 1 ToC

Issue 1 Table of Contents

The layout of the zine may strike younger readers as eccentric, or perhaps abhorrent. Matt, who laid it out, complained entertainingly at every step of the process. For good or ill, we set out to make the Tome look like an artefact of the 1980s, slipped through the cracks of time and deposited, blinking, into a strange and harsh new age. I know just how it feels. Achieving this involved using a limited number of fonts (mainly Courier, which only made Matt cry harder), keeping the layout as basic as possible, and artificially introducing strange angles and blemishes to make it appear that the whole thing had been hand-assembled using razor blades and paste. Matt has been drinking heavily since, and now only communicates with Paul and me through enthusiastically incoherent expletives.

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Matt has dubbed the process he uses to replicate the old-school layout “shitification”.

As well as all the backers who made this possible, we would also like to thank Jonathan Wyke, John Ossoway and Lucy Fricker for providing some excellent artwork! We will start on issue 2 late this year, with a view to releasing it in March/April 2017. If you have any ideas for articles you’d like to see, please let us know.

 

Posted in Site News, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, Unholy Artefacts | 2 Comments

Episode 75 – The Good Friends sing along to The Music of Erich Zann

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We’re back, and we’re talking about everyone’s favourite eldritch curtain-twitcher, Erich Zann. Lovecraft’s short story, The Music of Erich Zann, is a highpoint of his early career. More importantly, it is a rare example of a work that all three of us agree about. The sanity-blasting revelations at the end of the story are nothing compared to such weirdness!

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And almost as uncanny as finding a picture of Erich Zann in which he plays a viol, and not a violin!

This is the shortest Lovecraft story we’ve discussed so far, barely a tenth of the length of The Shadow Out of Time. This has allowed us to fit the entire discussion into a single episode, including the usual mentions of adaptations and ideas for stealing elements for our games.  Admittedly, the discussion on adaptations is brief; while The Music of Erich Zann has been adapted a number of times, it has largely birthed short films or somewhat freer musical interpretations, both of which are tricky to discuss for different reasons.

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Every time we tried to play an example, Paul’s study window revealed an endless vista of cosmic awfulness. Or Buckingham. I get confused.

And speaking of musical adaptations of Lovecraft, we make mention of the ongoing IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign by The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, raising money to record their fifth album, The Dukes of Alhazred. Hell, it’s worth giving them money for that title alone!

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Also, those shoggoths won’t feed themselves. Or they will. That may be worse.

 

There is also some discussion of sloths, evisceration and tea, which needs to be illustrated with a photograph. We’re not sure if this makes things any clearer, but it certainly makes them weirder. This is usually the best we can hope for.

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If people are willing to pay a premium for coffee beans that have passed through a civet cat, tea made from sloth urine must be a sure thing!

Posted in Call of Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft, Horror Films, Horror Stories, Roleplaying Games, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | Tagged | 6 Comments

iTunes review page

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We now have a shiny new page on the site that gathers our iTunes reviews from across the globe and puts them all in one place.

It’s wonderful to see how many people have taken the time to write positive reviews, and we are grateful to all of you!

If anyone else is moved to share your thoughts in the form of a review, we would love to see it! Just pop over to the Apple site or fire up your iTunes client and let us know what you think.

Posted in Site News, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 2 Comments